Tim Kish was recruiting in Los Angeles when he got the news Monday — Arizona Wildcats head coach Mike Stoops was fired and, oh yeah, this is your team for the next several weeks.
Kish, the team’s defensive coordinator turned interim head coach for the second half of the season, took a couple of flights back to Tucson, arriving around midnight, barely slept and made his debut on the Pac-12 coaches teleconference at 10:20 a.m. Tuesday.
“First and foremost, we’re just going to kind of regroup,” Kish said, adding that he hadn’t yet met with the other assistants or the players.
“Certainly, it was a sad day for our program yesterday, but today we have to move forward.”
He said he would meet with the players in the afternoon before what he called a “light practice” during the bye week. Arizona plays host to UCLA on Thursday, Oct. 20.
“The focus is going to be totally on us and nobody else at this point,” Kish said.
“We have to come up with some solutions, and hopefully, they are ones that the players feel comfortable with. There may be some that don’t feel comfortable with it.
“We’ve got some issues. It’s across the board. And it’s going to take all of us — coaches and players alike — to get some things fixed.”
Kish, 57, is the most experienced coach on staff and the only one who had been with Stoops at Arizona from the beginning, in 2004. Athletic director Greg Byrne said Monday night that Kish “will create a culture of calmness, which is probably a good thing for us.”
Byrne, discussing the timing of his decision, added that he wanted the team “to have some fun playing the season and we want the coaches to have some fun coaching.”
Not only does Arizona no longer have the increasingly contentious Stoops job debate hanging over the program, but Kish brings a more positive personality to the top position. Kish, like Byrne, Monday, mentioned the word “fun” in his comments Tuesday.
“It’s tough to lose week in and week out, especially to formidable opponents like we have been playing,” Kish said, “but I expect our guys to to come back and respond.”
Kish also expressed appreciation for his time at Arizona with Stoops.
“He built a good foundation here that we have to work off of,” Kish said.
“We had some good things happen here in those eight years. It’s unfortunate, but as of late, we haven’t responded how we needed to. The head coach always gets too much credit and too much blame. But we’re in this situation because of us, and it will take all of us to get ourselves out of it.
“I’m hoping I can provide some direction here for these guys and we want to instill a sense of pride back in this program.”
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